December 2022 Holiday Flowers

This article will be rather digressing and some topics may not be at all about what you may think they should be. But, the background of, what we consider well known, may not be as well know as we thought and quite a bit more interesting. Consequently, not all of this article will deal directly with flowers, shrubs, etc. as I found some very interesting connections between, specifically, poinsettias and an eatery in Stockton. So poke around at some depth in the poinsetta section. The other sections are traditional comments on what you might expect – some flowers for the holidays


Most of this article is devoted to talking about THE Christmas flower we are all familiar with – the POINSETTIA. There are a number of links to other information you may be interested in as regards poinsettias. Read them and you will see the relationship between the poinsettias and the Stagecoach Restaurant in Stockton. It is a weird and twisty relationship but I have found it to be quite interesting.

Some interesting facts about Poinsettias

This story starts with Joel Roberts Poinsett, also see this link, the  United States Minister to Mexico (first ambassador) to Mexico from 1822 to 1823 under James Monroe and he also Secretary of War under Martin van Buren from 1837 to 1841.

While visiting in the Mexico City area he saw the flor de Nochebuena. Being an avid amateur botanist, he sent a sample to the US. By 1836 it was widely known as the poinsettia and was being cultivated in the U.S. by Bartram Gardens who became the first to sell the poinsettia.

The story becomes even more convoluted as Poinsett also sent seeds to a nurseryman Robert Carr who was married to Mary Bartram Carr whose grandfather was John Bartram who established Bartram’s Botanic Garden in Philidelphia. This tale also has a connection to one William Bartram a son of of John Bartram.

The Ecke Family in the Los Angeles became the first to grow poinsettias commercially from the Bartram’s Garden on June 6th 1829. Did you know that 12-Dec is National Poinsettia Day – the anniversary of the death of John Roberts Poinsett’s death? It is the worlds most economically important potted plant! In the US approximately 70,000,000 are sold during a six-week period at a value in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars!

But, what about William Bartram – mentioned above? Willian was a world-renowned botanist known in Europe, was friend to Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. So, again, you may say – “so what”? Well, it turns out he traveled throughout the southeast US writing a book on his travels: The Travels of William Bartram in Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia which is available on Amazon.  Again, so what? Well, it turns out that in the northern part of Baldwin County, yes no more than 25-30 miles north of us, is the Bartram Canoe Trail! It is divided into 13 ‘trails’ that cover the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the second largest river delta in the US. Having kayaked several of these trails I have found great beauty in the rivers, ‘bayous’, trees, plants from the Indian Mounds to Stockton. The path he followed became a stagecoach road from Milledgeville GA to Natchez MS. Did you know that one of the stops on this stagecoach road was/is the Stage Coach Café in Stockton? It is still there and is REALLY good. Friday and Saturday night is the best with live band or piano and all you can eat.

So, the takeaway here is when you see a poinsettia this time of the year remember there is even a connection, rather convoluted though it may be, to Baldwin County and some great eating.

So much for some poinsettia background – as to the plant itself let’s talk about it.

You will hear the term BRACTS which are the petals on a poinsettia that change color– the surround the much smaller and insignificant flowers which are yellow.

It is the most popular Christmas potted plant in the world with 100 varieties which will bloom for 6-8 weeks with care and prefer 6 hr. of indirect light. Take care and it will grow up to 10 ft or more. It is sensitive to drafts so do not let the leaves or bracts touch windows. Also, do not place it near a heating vent or open windows/doors. If you have a cooler (60-70 degrees) porch or area in your house it will do better.

It needs humidity and not a dry room, water when dry. Use a well-balanced soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Once in full color go to ½ strength. If you purchase the poinsettia in a paper wrap, punch drainage hole or remove the paper – as excess water will lead to root rot.

Supposedly it is a complicated process to rebloom. But treat it like any other house plant. Cut it back when bracts fall off and let it grow. I have, after winter just placed in yard and let it grow. Depending on how severely you trim it back it may get leggy but it can grow to a tree – I have grown them to about four feet. They will rebloom but not as profusely. To ‘properly’ rebloom – they must be in total dark from 5PM to 8am starting in Oct. NO light. Do this until mid-Dec and you get color on the bracts.

Other holiday plants, some of which we have covered in previous links.


One can force the bulb, typically white and yellow flowers, quite easily. Use a container with no holes, clean pebbles, etc. and put 1-2 “ of them in the container with the bulb, pointed side up and cover the bulb almost to top, leaving about an inch showing. Water just to touch roots and keep in cooler room at first. Keep water at proper level and do not let it evaporate. When grown move to sunny window. Plant every two weeks for continual blooming. If the room is too warm they will get leggy.


Look for healthy bulbs and plant in a container just a little larger than bulb – needs a tight fit and good drainage. Stalk will appear and when in flower leaves appear.

Rotate the container to keep the flower stalk growing straight. You may still need to stake the flower to keep it from falling over. Fertilize it with a weak solution of 10-10-10 every 2-3 weeks. It takes about seven weeks to bloom. After blooming remove the flower stalk and plant the bulb outside after all frost is gone. Amaryllis overwinters here with no problem. After 2-3 years you may want to dig up the bulb and remove the bulbils and plant them for a new amaryllis plant. It will, typically take a couple for the bulbils to start blooming.

Christmas cactus

There are a variety of these cactus: Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas cactus. They are so named based on when they bloom.

They like sun but indirect light is preferred. Strong sun can burn the leaves. Place them in a window facing east or north as it prefers strong indirect light. My brother has one on an east facing porch and becomes a mound of pink flowers about 18 inches in diameter. There are different colors with white, red, yellow, and more. They prefer a balmy environment with a temperature of 70-80 degrees from April to September. Once the buds are set it requires a cooler night temperature and do best with long periods of darkness (13-16 hours). It needs well drained soil and a good potting mix, i.e., cactus mix. Fertilize twice a month with diluted fertilizer. Do not let dry out as there will be no bloom, too much water – root rot, prune when done blooming. After pruning, the parts snipped off can easily be rooted by placing in a moist container. After the chance of frost is gone you can plant it outside. I just place the pot outside in a shaded part of the yard. You can also keep it as house plant, and it will do well.

Yuletide sasanqua 

This is not a flower that you would plant today for blooming in a couple of months but a category of camellia. If you want a truly beautiful shrub that will bloom during the winter, you might want to plant one of these. Camellias will be a topic in a few months. Other information may be found here.